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Striking a balance between craft and automation

10 September 2018

In addition to eliminating any unwanted process variables in its brewing process, Royal City Brewing Company wanted a scalable and aesthetically pleasing automation solution. 

Royal City Brewing Company was founded in 2013 by Cam Fryer and Russ Bateman who shared a passion for brewing craft beer. Their knowledge of the brewing process combined with a high level of technical understanding allowed them to recognise that the most effective way to preserve the important repeatability factor of their craft beer was through automation.

Through this understanding of all aspects of the brewing process and equipment as well as the line between imperative hands-on and potentially hands-off procedures, they decided to seek out a level of automation that would reduce human error potential while maximising the efficiency of their initially slim human resources. 
Fryer and Bateman were introduced to Bürkert to talk through their ideas. The principles of repeatability through advanced temperature control, process efficiency in order to maximise a bare-bones start-up human resource base and future-proofing for inevitable expansion were at the centre of these discussions. 
Taking these important variables into account the group was able to come up with a five-year plan that related to the projected growth of the brewery and the role that automation would play to help drive, manage and support this growth.

Specific aspects of the project that allowed for smooth transitions throughout this period of growth included the bus architecture, with a modular and easily expandable AS-i backbone, as well as brew house and cold storage temperature control beyond just the initial scope of controlling the temperature in the cellar vessels.

The impact of the early stage planning was realised as the facility began to grow and infrastructure expansion was needed to meet demand. With functionality and performance as the obvious priorities, aesthetics of the equipment in the brew house was also a consideration.  With the open atmosphere that Royal City has designed between their tap room and brewery, patrons are invited to walk around the brewery to see exactly how the beer is made.

Process transparency
This sort of transparency into the process really exposes the brand and having a clean, high-tech fit and finish in the brew house is vital. As well as being fit for purpose to deliver precise and reliable temperature control in a glycol/brewery cellar environment the Bürkert Element also provided aesthetic consistency throughout the brewery.

The sanitary stainless steel design matched and blended in seamlessly from the perspective of fit and finish with the brewery vessels and equipment. Furthermore, the multi-colour LED coding provided visible cues during proper operation as well as any sort of unexpected temperature conditions or process upset.

The round stainless design, void of any flat edges, also delivered functional benefits externally, beyond just the aesthetics, of a valve designed for effective cleaning and for longevity in damp environments.

Today, staffing levels and labour resources at the brewery have expanded in order to meet demand and utilise capacity but in-line with that expansion, the number of moving parts in the operation, number of vessels, number of critical control points and possibility of human error have also increased.

The early vision of where automation would fit into the picture at Royal City allowed for the proper planning of a long-term narrative and therefore a modular and easily expandable infrastructure.  Pre-planning to this level allowed for an easy transition through growth stages from the automation and controls perspective.
Effective implementation of the AS-i bus infrastructure allowed for the seamless and cost-effective integration of valves and control points on expansion vessels. The result is a brewery operation that has the freedom to experiment on new beer recipes while retaining the consistency and repeatability of the brews on which the brand was built.

Remote monitoring options allow for a cloud-based observation of all brewery conditions on a tablet and real-time remote text/email notifications of alarms or upset conditions.  

Royal City Brewing Co. has successfully struck a balance between automation and craft brewing that has proven to be a very beneficial investment in helping the brewery grow to meet the demand developed through the repeatable production of consistently great beer.

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